Several generations under one roof place high demands on architecture
Strong relationships, economic consciousness and a lower carbon footprint. There are many benefits to incorporating several generations into public buildings. But generational buildings also place great demands on the architecture, interior design and logistics.
Read more in the interview with Magnus Anclair, founder of the Forum Bygga Skola network.
Can you build the perfect environment for both a 5-year-old preschooler and an 87-year-old care home resident? A place for noise, play and learning – but also with room for rest and recovery? "Absolutely", says Magnus Anclair. He is the founder of Forum Bygga Skola, a network that has been working for more than seven years to make Swedish schools the best they can be. In fact, he believes there are many benefits in uniting the generations in a shared setting:
"When we bring several generations together under one roof, we create stronger relationships and better lives across age and gender. The elderly are stimulated by the lives of children and their play, while the children are able to have a relationship with the older generation that they may not otherwise have in their everyday lives. The meeting between the two generations enhances the human qualities for both parties," he explains.
In addition to the positive human aspects, there are also other benefits – especially for the developer.
"One thing is to unite people and create respect and understanding. Another is the financial aspect. From an economic perspective, generational buildings are also highly profitable. All things being equal, it is cheaper and more environmentally conscious to build one building instead of two, and this has a significant impact on municipalities, for example, when it comes to budgeting.
Design is key
While intergenerational architecture may sound like an obvious winning solution, there are still a number of pitfalls that architects need to steer clear of.
The design of the building has a major impact on whether the meeting between generations will succeed or fail. Magnus Anclair says:
"Young and old have very different needs, so when we work with buildings that accommodate different generations, we talk a lot about accessibility. Should there be free access between the two generations, or should they have one common meeting point. Do they share a kitchen, outdoor spaces or other areas? The unifying aspect is an advantage, but it also makes demands and requires compromises," he explains and continues:
"In this type of construction, remember that 1+1=3. Not only should there be space for users, but also for guests, employees and others who come into the building. The people who manage operations and work in the building must also be able – and willing – to collaborate across the board. Otherwise, it’s just two institutions that happen to share the same roof.
Magnus Anclair points to the entrance area as a good place to start. This is where the requirements (and different needs) really come to the fore, and can be incorporated into the rest of the building’s design. In particular, he points to acoustics and logistics as key factors that can have a decisive impact on whether the building will function in practice or only on paper.
Examples of compliance
Both Sweden and Denmark already have good examples of how buildings can be catalysts for intergenerational meetings.
The Sandarna School in Gothenburg is the first of its kind in Sweden and represents a completely new way of thinking about intergenerational architecture. Here school children and the elderly share their everyday lives in a building made of concrete elements with inlaid, sand-coloured bricks and fields of glazed bricks that catch the light and create an interplay of colours. Indoors, the focus is on creating a cosy feeling for the elderly who live there and good acoustics for everyone. That’s why Troldtekt acoustic ceilings were chosen for the school.
In Denmark, Huset Nyvang in Randers is among the first of its kind to combine both a care home and an integrated daycare centre. Here, the emphasis is on creating a playful and varied architectural expression in the daycare centre, while the care home section is characterised to a greater extent by cosiness and recognisable materials. However, both parts of the construction are characterised by robust materials that contribute to durability and good acoustics. One example is the white-painted Troldtekt acoustic panels on the ceilings and wall areas, which also help to tie the rooms together aesthetically.